Review: 2008 Jeep Liberty
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
The redesigned 2008 Jeep Liberty has improved on-road driving and looks more rugged in the Jeep tradition, with such things as a flattened hood and less rounded body.
The new Liberty still is plenty rugged for off-road use, but its refined ride and handling make it easier to drive on roads, with its new independent front suspension, new 5-link rear suspension and power rack-and-pinion steering.
Many Jeep owners are outdoor-oriented, so they should appreciate the new Liberty's industry-exclusive push-button Sky Slider full-length open canvas roof, which imparts a convertible-style open-air experience.
The Liberty is aimed at young couples and new families, beside professional young single men and women 30-40 years old. Jeep says its new vehicle should especially appeal to those "looking for Jeep 4-wheel-drive capabilities, besides comfort and convenience."
Two Trim Levels
Jeep is a whiz with 4-wheel-drive systems. The new Liberty has an advanced, new Selec-Track II system that can be left in 4-wheel-drive mode on dry pavement. The less-costly Command Trac system is designed to be put in low range only on surfaces that cause tire slippage. Both systems have low-range gearing for challenging off-road use.
The Sport lists at $20,330 with rear-wheel drive or at $21,940 with 4-wheel drive. The Limited costs $24,515 with rear-drive and $26,125 with 4-wheel drive.
The single-overhead-camshaft engine is hooked to a 6-speed manual gearbox or a responsive, but rather dated, 4-speed automatic transmission, which really should have another forward gear.
The rear-wheel-drive Liberty with the manual or automatic transmissions provides an estimated 16 mpg in the city and 22 on the highway. Figures with the manual and 4-wheel drive also are 16 and 22, but dip to 15 and 21 with the automatic and that drive system.
My test Liberty was the Limited 4-wheel-drive version with the automatic transmission. Steering was precise, and the supple suspension provided a compliant ride. Improved ride and handling make the new Liberty a more comfortable long-distance vehicle. The brake pedal has a good feel and normal stopping distances are short.
My test Limited's standard features included air conditioning, power driver's seat, AM/FM stereo with an in-dash CD/MP3/WMA player, front passenger fold-flat seat and speed-sensitive power locks.
Hill start assist and hill descent features were there to make things easier during off-road driving.
Awkward Push Button Handles
The interior is quiet and generally roomy, but the driver's seat should slide back more for long-legged motorists. Also, legroom is tight for a tall passenger behind the driver. Rather narrow rear door openings impede entry and exit.
Gauges can be quickly read, and the large sound system and climate controls are easy to operate. Angled front cupholders will help prevent beverage spills. And there is a grab bar near the glove compartment that's handy for a passenger during off-road use.
The glove compartment and covered console storage bin are small, but front doors have large storage pockets. There's also a small front storage bin that can be used for such items as toll-way coin storage.
Reaching rear cupholders can be a stretch because they're at floor level behind the back of the front console. Rear windows lower all the way.
Versatile New Infotainment System
The new rear hatch has a flip-up glass window that can be opened by a button or key fob, Its interior grip lets you close it without getting hands dirty on outside metal.
The cargo floor is rather high. But it's roomy, thanks partly to a longer cargo area. Rear seatbacks easily flip forward and lay flat to increase cargo capacity.
The new Liberty is more of a traditional Jeep than its predecessor, but at the same time is more modern with desirable new features.